Having passed in and out of the hallowed doors of both Sony and EMI, superdeluxe diva Mariah Carey, she of the three-squillion-octaves voice, bounces back, bravely showing that somehow there can be life after being paid millions to go away. And while EMI’s chequered past has surely included some outstandingly bizarre contract decisions, they must be delighted that now Carey’s moved on to Universal, the third of the big five labels (through its Mercury division) .
For once, they made the right decision. This 15-track, overblown schmaltzfest of a record does what most of her albums already have, showcasing her undoubtedly exceptional vocal skills. Unfortunately for the listener, it also insists that listening to endless vocal exercises masquerading as songs is an absolutely necessary experience.
Her multi-layered vocals are even more difficult to endure than a single track would be, however high she squeaks and whoever she drags in to give her street cred – such as the underused Jay-Z on You Got Me, or co-writer Quincy Jones and producer Dr Dre. And none of them seem to want to work with her for more than one track.
Worse still is the swift realisation that almost every track – You Got Me and stand-out I Only Wanted excepted – sounds like that which went before – shimmering synth notes and deadened beats underpin the various grunts, whines and bleats that pass for songs. It all adds up to an eminently dispensible attempt at urban music, made all the sillier for having been recorded for the most part in the millionaires’ playground, Capri.
A brief glance at the sleeve confirms the all-too-obvious ruse of listing the diva as “co-writer” and “co-producer” for just about everything. It’s amazing that people are still fooled into thinking this means the “star” actually comes up with the songs, and of course Mariah’s far from alone in using this now widespread technique for achieving credibility. That most of her tracks seem to have at least four producers and anything from two to five writers offers an interesting pointer to her level of involvement in the creative process. And while she does get individual credit for production on a couple of tracks, often her efforts also list co-producers. But as by the record’s mid-point, Clown, the level of interest is such that watching paint dry seems like a better way of spending one’s time, it’s difficult to care.
Lullaby merges into Irresistable and the irresistable urge to hit the stop button of the CD player is causing the blood to boil. Still it plays on, through the slow-burning Bringin’ On The Heartbreak, instrumentally a mildly interesting song that sounds like it wants to be a single – but it’s a cover version. And despite that, if one ignores Carey’s almost endless Celine Dion-esque squeals, it’s the best thing on the record.
The entirely forgettable Sunflowers For Alfred Boy passes in a jiffy, and the album closes with… a remix of the first track, this time featuring Kelly Price and Joe. Cue multi-layered vocals, shimmering synth notes and deadened beats, underpinning the various grunts, whines and bleats – yet again.